12 February 2013

Orange Salad With Fennel, Celery and Colatura di Alici di Cetara (Fish Sauce)



I'm crazy about orange salads and I think I combined my oranges with everything imaginable.  Orange season is the part of winter that I look forward to the most.  Happy orange person that I am with an equally orangey wooden board.  With the festivities going on this weekend, I was able to squeeze in a trip to the commercial center to go wooden board and paint shopping with a little Zorro and fairy princess tagging along and arguing about which shade of orange is better.  The fairy princess was trying to make me disappear with a wave of her wand because of my continual habit of saying, "Basta!" (Stop it!).  Then on to our companionable Zorro to zap him and leave her in peace with her preferred shade of orange.   That was my weekend with the fairy princess and little Zorro and other walking Nemos, dynamites, clowns, jellyfish, the whole cast of Star Wars, a congregation of super heroes, princesses of all colors and anything imaginable walking freely around.  How was yours?


I have here a very simple salad using Tarocco oranges, a kind of blood orange that I mixed with chopped celery, Tropea red onion, a very mild red onion from the town of Tropea in the region of Calabria, Italy and a bulb of fennel then dressed with extra virgin olive oil and colatura di alici di Cetara, the Italian anchovy sauce from the small fishing village of Cetara in the Amalfi Coast of Italy.   I know, the simple orange salad I mentioned had grown into something complicated with the origin and variety of ingredients I used. 


I'll tell you a little bit about the orange, the onion and the fish sauce.

Tarocco orange is one of the 3 most popular blood orange varieties in Italy, the other two being Moro and Sanguinello.  All three of these Arance Rosse di Sicilia (Sicilian blood oranges) are grown in Eastern Sicily and have been designated the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) by the European Union.  The most available blood orange is the Tarocco variety.  It's referred to as "half-blood" because it is only partially tinted with red or anthocyanin (antioxidant) on the skin and flesh unlike the other two kinds.  What makes it very good is its sweetness.  In fact, it's the variety I love using for spremuta d'arancia (freshly squeezed orange juice) and salads.

The Cipolla rossa di Tropea (Tropea red onion) is another one designated the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) by the European Union.  What makes this onion special is its sweetness and very low lacrimal factor (the one that makes you cry) and its easiness in digestibility.  It is grown at some particular areas of Calabria that are close to the coastal town of Tropea.  They have been grown in other parts of the country and the world but nothing comes close to the special taste of the ones grown directly from the soil of Tropea.  

The colatura di alici di Cetara (fish sauce of Cetara) is the most interesting one among the three.  It has a great similarity to the ancient Roman's garum, a kind of sauce from fermented fish intestines.  The anchovies used in making the modern day colatura are caught in the waters of the Amalfi Coast between the 25th of March, the Feast of Annunciation until the 22nd of July, the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene.  Since the ancient Romans had been keeping recipes during their time, the recipe for garum was recuperated by monastic groups staying at the Amalfi Coast in the Middle Ages.  The production scattered along the coast until it was perfected and it is the method used in producing the sauce now in Cetara.  

The heads and entrails of the freshly-caught anchovies are removed then the fish are stored in containers with sea salt for 24 hours.  They are then transferred inside small oak or chestnut barrels alternating with salt and weights.  Because of these weights, the anchovy liquid goes on top and it is then transferred to large glass containers that are exposed to direct sunlight for 4 - 5 months.  Because of water evaporation, the liquid becomes more concentrated.  The anchovies that remained in the barrels are the ones sold as bottled anchovies.  The liquid is then transferred back to wooden barrels with anchovies at the end of October and beginning of November.  The liquid goes through the anchovies to gain more flavor then it goes out through a hole in the barrel and it is filtered with linen cloths and bottled for consumption at the beginning of December. (Information taken and translated from Wikipedia.)


The colatura di alici is compared to the Asian fish sauce.  In fact, I grew up using Asian fish sauce so when I found out about the colatura di alici, I immediately embarked in looking for it.  I got my first bottle after a couple of years of looking for it because I didn't know the name or where in Italy it was produced.  I had to explain the process of producing it everytime I looked for it in a shop.  The first time I bought a bottle, I remember being shocked about the price.  For such a tiny bottle, I had to pay 10 times more compared to a big bottle of Asian fish sauce.  The similarity is there, in fact, maybe if I didn't grow up with the Asian fish sauce, I would say that they are the same.  The colatura di alici is richer, smoother and rounder in taste and smell.   I don't buy anymore the Asian counterpart and use the colatura in all my Asian dishes.  The taste is almost the same unless you pay particular attention to what you are tasting.  The colatura di alici should be close to impossible to find outside Italy but I think you can find them online.  Replace with its Asian counterpart if you really can't find it. 


I hope you learned something like I did.   It took a bit of more research than my usual and I hope it had been educational for you as much as it had been for me.  I prepared a cake for this Valentine's post but I pulled it out at the last minute because it was not as perfect as I would have wanted it to be.  You know me, not really the greatest baker in the world.  So here is my Valentine's post of an orange salad.  I hope you forgive me.

Happy Valentine's Day!



Orange Salad With Fennel, Celery and Colatura di Alici di Cetara (Fish Sauce)


Ingredients:
Serves 2
  • 4 oranges, wedges
  • 1/2 mild red onion (I used a Tropea onion.), sliced to rings
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons colatura di alici di Cetara (replace with Asian fish sauce if not available)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly cracked black pepper 
Directions:
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a plate.  
  2. Dress with fish sauce, extra virgin olive oil and pepper before eating.


18 comments:

  1. I love orange salads too - always so fresh and they bring thoughts of spring! I like your orange board too - I think you made the right choice, despite the distractions of Zorro and the fair princess :).

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    1. Hard to choose the right color with Zorro and the fairy princess arguing about it. LOL! It does make me think of spring too. I can't wait for the new sprouts and colors to come out!

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  2. Ciao Rowena (non ricordo il tuo short name, Weng vero?),
    non capisco molto di come funzionano i blog, una volta scrivendo a quello di mia sorella mi sono arrivate 50 mail! complimenti quindi per il tuo blog, ammiro quelle come te e mia sorella (http://ilventoama.blogspot.it) capaci di scrivere e fotografare così;
    pagherò tutti i danni che Bella sta provocando, ma mi raccomando non faccia male ai bambini! Ho poca voglia di sciare, temo di farmi male come lo scorso anno, speriamo bene, il meteo migliora e forse anche il mio poco entusiasmo,
    A presto

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    1. Grazie Fabio! Come abbiamo detto prima, non c'e' problema con Bella. A presto!

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  3. This post takes me back to the early winter when I sped time not only in Tropea and had plenty of their Tropea onions but also spent some time in Cetera. I have a bottle of the colatura in my cupboard but have been undecided how to use it so far.Great idea!!

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    1. Goody, you can try out your colatura with this salad!

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  4. Lovely, colourful, appetizing salad ready for my next lunch! Thank you for giving the Asian fish sauce alternative: probably nowhere as good as your Italian one, but at least that is in the pantry :) !

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    1. The Asian fish sauce is almost the same as the colatura. You only notice the difference when you pay particular attention to it. Hope you enjoy your orange salad!

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  5. First time here..i must admit have a wonderful blog.Colorful and vibrant!..lovely pics and recipies..i am following you.Btw I usually make orange and fennel salad will now try with Red onion.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by and a big thank you for following my blog. I love mixing mild red onions with oranges. I hope you enjoy it too!

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  6. Amazing color combination, I enjoy your photography very much. Lovely salad, thank you for a beautiful post!

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    1. Thank you Yelena! I'm glad that you like this one!

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  7. It looks fantastic. Love the colours and the plate ;)

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  8. Happy Valentine's, Rowena! What a superb salad! So colourful that it makes me happy happy happy inside :) Especially now that it's a gloomy winter day here in Toronto! I definitely need high doses of vitamin C - and if they come from a salad like this, all the better! I'm so fascinated with the colatura di alici (had to scroll up to check my spelling, heehee) that you are talking about! Learned something new today!

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    1. Colatura di alici for me is a very good find even if it's really not that far from the Asian fish sauce. I love both!

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  9. My mother works for an Italian food importer and can get her hands on a bottle of the Colatura di alici. I am really looking forward to trying your salad recipe. Looks full beautiful and full of flavor!

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    1. You'll be able to use the colatura in a lot of dishes Lisa. That's wonderful!

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